Spring Hopes Eternal

 

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Getting close to Opening Day. It’s exciting!!

Opening Day of baseball season is one of the best times of the year. If you’re a baseball fan, that is. Nothing like going out to the ballpark to cheer on your team, yell at the umpires, partake of some concessions (peanuts and sodas for me), go wild when one of your guys hits a home run (or one of the opponents strikes out), and just enjoy yourself for a few hours watching this great game.

And Opening Day is great, because every team has the exact same win-loss record. Every team has the same chance of getting all the way to the World Series, and winning a championship.

Anything can happen. In 2016, the Chicago Cubs won for the first time since 1908. A year later, the Houston Astros won for the first time in their team’s history.

Who will it be this year? The fans can’t wait to find out.

 

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Baseball has always been in my life. When I was a kid, we lived close to a minor league ballpark, and went there often during the summer to see a game. I’ll always remember my dad catching a foul ball one time, and handing it to me. I was probably about eight or nine years old. He was about as big a hero to me then as ever.

Then, in the early 1970’s (yes, I’m that old), Major League Baseball came to town, and I have followed the triumphs and travails of the Texas Rangers ever since.

(The 2011 season is still a sore subject. I tell you, we were this close, this close, to our first ever World Series championship, and we blew it. Some heartbreaks, you never get over.)

I had always watched the game, but it wasn’t until 1997 that I came to understand and appreciate the subtle nuances of it, after reading a book called The Baseball Fan’s Companion, by Nick Bakalar. It was that book that taught me the strategy behind pitching, hitting, baserunning, base stealing, signs and all the rest. Turns out, baseball is a much more complicated game than it appears to be.

And that’s what makes it great. It looks simple, but there’s a lot more going on than just scratching and spitting.

 

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One thing that will make this season more interesting is the implementation of some new rules intended to speed up the game. Now, when I first heard about this, I was kinda worried. Speed up the game?, I thought, That’s the beauty of baseball, that it goes at its own pace! What are you guys doing? I mean, there was even discussion about adding a pitch clock, so pitchers would only have so much time between each pitch.

I might have boycotted baseball if they’d gone through with that!

Fortunately, they didn’t, but some other changes will be implemented this season, on a trial basis, to try to make the game move along a little faster.

I guess it’s a good idea; we’ll see. Hardcore baseball fans are very resistant to change. It may take awhile to win ‘em over.

Nevertheless, it’s an entertaining way to spend some time. Even just listening to a game can be entertaining, just to hear the announcer call the game in a language all its own: “One on, one out, here in the top of the seventh. Hamels is trying to get Altuve to hit into a double play, so the Rangers can get out of this inning with no runs scored on them. Hamels sets, here comes the pitch…strike on the inside corner, and the count is now two and two! Hamels froze Altuve with a slider that time…”

There’s just something hypnotic about it. I think so, anyway.

It’s a terrific game. If you’ve never checked it out before, why not give it a try? If you want to get into it a little deeper, I recommend the book I mentioned earlier. And if you’re lucky enough to live near a stadium where a baseball team plays, even a minor league team, go attend a game or two.

And try to catch a foul ball for me.

 

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Go Rangers!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Selling Myself Short

 

Legendary Texas sportswriter Blackie Sherrod used to open his column in the Sunday paper with, “Scattershooting while wondering whatever happened to ____…”, fill in the blank with the name of some famous person, sports related or not, who hadn’t been heard from lately, then regale his readers with short, but brilliant, observations on a variety of topics.

So, in tribute to him, and because I don’t seem to be able craft any narrative much longer than a paragraph lately, here are a few short takes. Here goes:

 

Scattershooting while wondering whatever happened to Kellyanne Conway…

I’m so happy for the Houston Astros, who just won their very first World Series, and are now the reigning champions of Major League Baseball. ⚾️

It couldn’t have happened at a better time for the beleaguered people of Houston, whose recovery from the devastation left behind by hurricane Harvey is ongoing. They had something to rally around, to cheer for and finally, to celebrate. So, at least for awhile, Houstonians had a chance to forget all the troubles that still beset them, and party their Astros off. 🎉🎉

 

It’s come to this, I guess.

The New York City Marathon took place Sunday, mere days after a terrorist killed eight people in Manhattan by running over them in a truck. Several people participating in the race were understandably worried about such a thing happening again during the marathon, so the city and the police took the following precautions:

From the Associated Press:

“The security detail will include hundreds of extra uniformed patrol and plainclothes officers, roving teams of counterterrorism commandos armed with heavy weapons, bomb-sniffing dogs and rooftop snipers poised to shoot if a threat emerges.”

This was for a footrace, folks. I mean, good grief!

Fortunately, there were no incidents. Congratulations to the women’s winner, America’s Shalane Flanagan, and the men’s winner, Kenya’s Geoffrey Kamworor, and to everyone else who participated. And to New York’s Finest for keeping them safe.

You people are masochists, though, running that far. Just sayin’.

 

Well, the floodgates have opened, haven’t they? As predicted, Harvey Weinstein was just the beginning. We’re hearing story after story of men in positions of power abusing that power with women. Women are discovering strength in numbers, and speaking up about instances of harassment and abuse from powerful men, instances they previously stayed silent about for fear of reprisal.

I just read about former and current women in Congress being harassed by certain men in Congress, some of whom still serve. (Nobody was named specifically.)

Actions have consequences, even for powerful men. Time for all this hideous behavior to be called out and punished. Ladies, I salute your courage. Gentlemen, it’s time you were truly gentlemen. Way past time.

And that goes for you, too, Kevin Spacey.

 

donald trump has actually changed my opinion of him. He’s reinforced it. Exponentially.

 

Some people just…shouldn’t… be…parents.

Courtesy of CBS News:

“SAUKVILLE, Wis. — A Wisconsin woman is facing charges after her 9-year-old son was tied to the roof of their minivan to help hold down a plastic pool.

“Prosecutors allege (the woman) had her son hold down the molded pool they’d just picked up because it wouldn’t fit inside the van. CBS affiliate WDJT reports a driver called police after seeing the incident on Sept. 9 in Saukville, about 20 miles north of Milwaukee.”

She later explained to police, she thought it was okay, because her dad used to let her do that all the time. Proof positive that stupid is hereditary.

 

These are certainly different times we live in. I recall a time when the thought never even entered my mind that I might go to school, or to the mall, or to church, and wind up getting shot. There truly is no safe place left anymore. That’s a terrible feeling.

I guess no one is gonna get off their ass and do something about all the gun violence in this country until every single citizen ends up shot. Apparently, that’s what it will take.

 

Model Chrissy Teigen left a waitress in Ohio a $1,000 tip recently.

I know it’s too much to wish for, but I hope she catches a ride on my shuttle sometime.

Later, y’all.

 

 

 

Cubbies and Indians

 

This is a great time to be a baseball fan.

It’s World Series time, of course, which is always special for baseball fans. What makes this one really special, though, is the matchup.

On one side, we have the Cleveland Indians, whose most recent World Series victory came in 1948.

Yep, sixty-eight years ago. Let’s put that in perspective, shall we? We were three years removed from World War II. Dick Button became the first American Olympic figure skating champion. President Harry Truman signed the Marshall Plan. Milton Berle’s “Texaco Star Theater” premiered on NBC Television.

And the Cleveland Indians signed 42-year-old pitcher Satchel Paige to their team.

Now, on the other side, we have the Chicago Cubs, the “Cubbies”, baseball’s “lovable losers.”

Their most recent World Series victory was in…1908!

That’s right; over a century ago. Fifty-one years before I was even born, folks. Their most recent World Series appearance was in 1945.

What else happened in 1908? Well, among other things:

Henry Ford’s company built the first Model T automobile. Orville Wright made the first one-hour airplane flight. William Howard Taft was elected 27th President of the United States. Albert Einstein presented his quantum theory of light. Jack Johnson defeated Tommy Burns to become the first black heavyweight boxing champion.

So, yeah, neither of these teams have had anything to celebrate for a loooooong time. And the fans in both cities are absolutely berserk. They are ready to party, I promise you.

Tonight (Friday), Wrigley Field, in Chicago, hosts its first World Series game in seventy-one years. You don’t think that place will be rockin’?

And Cleveland, for so long a city devoid of champions, is still on a high from the Cavaliers recently winning the NBA pro basketball title. If the Indians win, too…!!

If you don’t watch baseball too often, now’s a perfect time. Even if you don’t know much about the game, get caught up in the unbridled hysteria taking place in these two great American cities. One of them is about to toast a World Series Champion, for the first time in decades.

It. Will. Be. Special. Play ball!

(you know who you are when I say, this is for you: Hot Dogs!!)

Tip Your Cap

 

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The end of an era is upon us, sports fans.

Vin Scully, legendary baseball announcer for the Los Angeles Dodgers, is retiring this season, after an astonishing 67 years in broadcasting.

Sixty…seven…years. Let that sink in for awhile.

Nobody has ever done his job so well, for so long. Nobody even close.

It makes me envious of Dodger fans. He’s more than just their announcer. He’s more than just their buddy, inviting them to sit back and enjoy a ball game with him.

He’s their dad, the one with all the memories of former Dodger heroes like Jackie Robinson and Duke Snider, Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, Steve Garvey and Davey Lopes, Fernando Valenzuela and Orel Hershiser and Kirk Gibson, on and on and on.

Wow!

This man is inextricably intertwined with the history of the Dodgers; indeed, of baseball.

He is in the Baseball Hall of Fame, of course, as a recipient of the annual Ford C. Frick award, presented to a broadcaster for “major contributions to baseball.”

And boy, has this guy contributed.

 

Back in ancient times, before television, radio was the only way to broadcast a ballgame. The announcer, therefore, was an artist; it was up to him to paint a complete picture for the listener, to describe the brilliant blue sky, the gentle breeze blowing in from left field, the smell of the freshly cut grass, the jubilant roar of the crowd…every sight, sound and smell of the game brought vividly to life, transporting the fan listening at home right to the best seat in the ballpark.

Vin Scully has skillfully painted these pictures day after day, game after game, for decades.

Not only does that take a great deal of talent, which he certainly has, and a singularly mellifluous voice, which he also has. It takes a true love and passion for the game, and a warm, inviting, friendly manner that makes people want to tune in and listen to him. Vin Scully checks both those boxes, as well.

Baseball Hall of Famer Ted Williams once said, “If there was a guy born to play baseball, it was Willie Mays.” I say, if there was a guy born to announce baseball, it’s Vin Scully.

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My two favorite ball games, called by Vin Scully:

1986 WORLD SERIES, GAME 6: As the New York Mets mounted a crazy ninth-inning, two-out comeback to defeat the utterly gobsmacked Boston Red Sox at New York’s Shea Stadium, Vin asked rhetorically, ” Can you believe this ballgame at Shea?”

As the infamous game-ending ground ball rolled improbably through the legs of first baseman Bill Buckner, allowing Ray Knight to score the winning run for the Mets, Vin described it like this, the shock and disbelief at what was unfolding, clearly heard: “Little roller, up along first…BEHIND THE BAG!! IT GETS THROUGH BUCKNER!! HERE COMES KNIGHT, AND THE METS WIN IT!!!”

Minutes later, after letting the television audience take in the raucous celebration in the stadium, except for the stunned, silent Red Sox dugout, he declared, “If one picture is worth a thousand words, you have seen about a million words!”

(Which is another skill of his: letting the images on television tell the story. As valuable as his words are, he knows when they aren’t needed.)

 

1988 WORLD SERIES, GAME 1: Dodgers vs. Oakland A’s, Dodger Stadium. Bottom of the ninth inning. Dodgers trail by one run with two outs and one man on base. Kirk Gibson, pinch-hitting despite a badly hurt right leg, is at bat. Three-ball, two-strike count. Here comes the pitch. Mr. Scully, take it away:

“High fly ball, into right field, she is GONE!!!”

In that call, you can hear the hopeful anticipation of what could happen, followed by the amazement and joy at what just did.

And then, amid all the resultant pandemonium, he added, “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened!”

Side note: At that moment, another legendary announcer, Jack Buck, delighted the radio audience with his own immortal line: “I DON’T BELIEVE WHAT I JUST SAW!!”

 

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Vin Scully will announce his last Dodgers home game this Sunday, September 25, at 4:00 PM, Eastern Time. It will be broadcast live on MLB Network, as well as the Dodgers’ and Colorado Rockies’ local networks. Do yourself a favor; take a break from football this Sunday.

And enjoy a baseball game with a living legend.